This blog post recounts a TV meteorologist’s recent experiences visiting a NASA science visualization project and working with other meteorologists and George Mason University researchers (re-posted with permission).

Photo at NASA
Ocean currents and temperatures on the NASA Science Visualization Wall at NASA Goddard Space Center in Greenbelt, Md.

I spent the weekend of March 16-17 at the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. We started the weekend with a visit to the NASA’s science visualization wall. Scientific centers everywhere are building similar displays to see science data in a whole new way, and it’s without doubt leading to new discoveries about how the planet works. I saw some amazing images on this wall, and thanks to my Canon 5D I grabbed a few snaps to share. NASA is working to put many of these images online in very high-resolution and in movie format as well. A picture truly is worth a thousand words and also a LOT of new science understanding.

You might think the image below is a satellite image. It isn’t.

Computer power has reached the level that very sophisticated weather and climate models can now be produced.

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It’s a climate model. Yeah, they are that realistic now. Below is the wind field around Hurricane Sandy.

From NASA Goddard in Greenbelt, MD.

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I spent the rest of the weekend with the George Mason Center for Climate Change Communication. It was a fun weekend with scientists, researchers and several fellow meteorologists who work on TV, and care deeply about science communication and education. We talked a lot about how to do a better job of communicating climate science. This is especially difficult since there so very many myths floating about.

We also saw some incredible visualizations of space weather! The three biggest controls on the planets weather systems are 1. Ocean, 2. Ocean and 3. Ocean.

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Below, is a video showing what happens when the particles of a large coronal mass ejection (CME) hit the Earth’s magnetic field. These large CME events can potentially cause significant problems with power grids on Earth and subject polar air route travelers to radiation. Astronauts on a spacewalk outside the ISS would be at considerable risk. The presenter here is NASA Solar Physicist Dr. Alex Young. That video was fantastic, Alex, and a big thank you to ALL of the scientists who came in on a Saturday to show us your science!


Dan Satterfield has worked as an on-air meteorologist for 32 years. Forecasting weather is his job, but earth science is his passion. 

Editor’s Note:  This piece has been lightly edited from the original AGU Blogosphere post.

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